Supplier gets shirty with Metropolitan Police

26 August 2011

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26 August 2011 | Adam Leach

The Metropolitan Police had to scrap a £900,000 contract to supply 40,000 pullovers following a complaint from a supplier regarding the tendering process.

This is among the results of the CabinetOffice’s “mystery shopper” complaints scheme, which allows small businesses to complain about public procurement anonymously. These grievances are then followed up by the Cabinet Office with the contracting authority.

The original tender for London’s police service advertised a four-year deal, but stipulated that the contract would be reviewed annually. A prospective supplier complained that any change in the fixed price period or quantity of the contract should result in the contract being withdrawn and started again, not simply renegotiated.

Following the complaint the police force agreed to restart the tender from the PQQ stage. But ultimately, due to rises in wool prices, the procurement was scrapped.

In all, there were 23 complaints made against public sector organisations; 11 of these were rectified immediately, seven led to future changes and five were rejected. The most common protests concerned PQQs followed by objections to contract sizes. There was an even split between the number complaining about central government and the wider public sector.

Other complaints heard since the scheme began three months ago included:

• A 38 page PQQ issued by Durham constabulary was criticised as too complex. The force has agreed to use simpler questionnaires in future tenders.

• A framework for consultancy by the Department for Transport that was said to bar SMEs from entering the bidding process. The procurement was reviewed and broken down into lots so that specialist vendors could compete.

• A complaint that local gardeners needed to apply and pay for an accreditation before bidding for gardening deals. Housing association Place for People explained this was in fact not mandatory.

Stephen Allott, crown representative for SMEs, said in a statement: “The government has started to make big changes to support SMEs, but we need to know from SMEs on the ground. We need to know how the changes are starting to bite, and where they’re not, why not.”

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